Wednesday's New Thing: Guardians of the Galaxy 0.1

Although I long ago understood that the numbering of comic books has little meaning outside of marketing, Marvel's .1 initiative has always seemed sort of goofy. Whether or not a book's number is actually important in any way, it certainly appears to have market value; that's why the comics person sometimes seems, from the outside, like a peculiar sort of counter, trying to piece everything together by completing a collection. So, although the .1 books were designed as "good jumping on points!," they actually make everything more complicated simply by bearing such arcane numbering. I have a feeling that this scared off new comics readers, that is, the sort of person that Marvel was ostensibly interested in attracting with the initiative.

This Guardians of the Galaxy issue, though, is particularly silly seeming. Since the series hasn't even really started yet, it reminds me of an old George Carlin joke about airplanes: "preboarding? What does that mean? Do you get on before you get on?" Look: the #1 is the ultimate in jumping on points, because every reader is starting from the first position together. The fact that comics sometimes run into the dozens, even the hundreds, of issues is precisely why the industry thinks it needs good jumping on points. That said, many of my not-comics friends have told me that one of the great things about serialized books is the ability to pick one up without the slightest idea of what came before and then enjoy the damn thing anyway, and it may be that a certain percentage of new readers are happy to start anywhere. Assuming, however, that issue numbers in the hundreds do put some people off, the companies seem to think that they are compelled to start new books (or, I guess, renumber old ones) after awhile. And, so, even though this issue is sort of a prologue to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing, this particular .1 strikes me as unusually silly; if it's important to the story, why not just start here? Or why not make it a one-shot? Prologue to Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill: Starlord #1

The dearth one-shots is frustrating for me, in part because I think that a publisher dedicated every month to putting out two or three books that are tied only vaguely to stuff that came before or that will come out later is a publisher dedicated to innovation, or, at least, to trying new things. I expect that the big companies don't make the single serving books because they don't sell as well as the ongoings, but I suspect that they also aren't motivated to go do it, because trying something different would force them to seek new ideas. This isn't something that Marvel and DC are very good at; instead, they prefer to recycle old things and then trick people into believing that they're about to read something new, hence Guardians of the Galaxy #.1 and the ongoing growing pains of the New 52. Of course, one-shots really are a hard sell, innovation or not, and it may just be that the market doesn't really want them. That's a shame, but its not very hard to understand why; there is, after all, a certain joy in reading a book that's a specific part in a longstanding story.

I'm sort of vaguely interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, because I like Steve McNiven's art and also because I'm curious about how Marvel makes comics that tie-in to its movies, and so I have a feeling I'll pick this up when I go to the store in the next few days. I do wonder, though-- will it sell the same way that the #1 will next month? And, if it does, does it mean that we asked for all this?

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